WATCH: A Conversation with D.Y. Chandrachud, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India

Insight January 17, 2023

On January 11, 2023, Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession (CLP) hosted a conversation with Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud upon his appointment as the 50th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India (effective November 2022). Professor David Wilkins, CLP Faculty Director, also presented Chief Justice Chandrachud with the CLP Award for Global Leadership in recognition of his lifetime of service to the legal profession in India and around the world. The event included a conversation between Professor Wilkins and Chief Justice Chandrachud, as well as commentary from Vikramaditya S. Khanna, William W. Cook Professor of Law, University of Michigan School of Law.

During the event, Chief Justice Chandrachud spoke eloquently about issues such as mental health, legal education, access to justice, technology, affirmative action, and more. He credited his time at Harvard Law School as an LLM and SJD student with giving him a “deep appreciation for the conceptual dimensions of rights and jurisprudence.” Speaking to his belief that technology has the capacity to democratize the justice system, he said, “Technology gives us an opportunity to replace the colonial model of justice, which was that citizens must reach out to justice, and replace that with a model where justice services across the country reach out to citizens.” He likewise called for a reconsideration of many aspects of the global legal profession, including calling on western countries to look beyond their own jurisdictions and toward those in the Global South for “innovative legal thinking” and “a more dynamic interpretation” as well as asking for greater diversity within the profession and judgeships in India. Chief Justice Chandrachud ended the event with a clarion call for judges to seek out and connect with the world. Judges lives isolated lives, he said. He continued:

A lot of times in the work we do as judges we face intractable challenges and these kind of challenges are liable to breed a sense of cynicism about the potential of law to change society for the better. … My answer personally speaking has been to connect with people I know in terms of their written work. To connect with people I don’t know except through their written work be it in terms of their music, in terms of their art, in terms of their paintings, in terms of their poetry. Because that gives you a sense that deep down we are all connected by one bond of humanity irrespective of what societies we live in or what time we live in and what cultures we live in.